Rookie Rundown: RB J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State

Rookie Rundown: RB J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State

Fantasy Football Rookie Analysis

Rookie Rundown: RB J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State

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(Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY Sports)

Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins wrapped up his three-year collegiate stint with a declaration to the 2020 NFL Draft. In a lead-up to the selection process that has been anything but traditional, after citing an ankle injury as the reason he wouldn’t run at the scouting combine, Dobbins did not get to run a 40-yard dash at pro day March 25, because there wasn’t one. He has previously been timed at 4.45 seconds, so speed isn’t a concern.

Height: 5-foot-9 1/2
Weight: 209 pounds
40 time: N/A

Dobbins was a starter as a true freshman after being a four-star recruit coming off of a broken leg in his first game as a high school senior — that speaks (yells?) volumes about how highly regarded he was coming into the NCAA ranks.

He was a second-team All-Big Ten honoree in his freshman and sophomore seasons, earning first-team recognition after the 2019 season. Dobbins also was a second-team All-American and first-team all-conference selection for his standout ’19 season.

Table: J.K. Dobbins’ NCAA stats (2017-19)

Year
Team
Att
Yds
Avg
TD
Long
Rec
Yds
Avg
TD
2017
Ohio State
194
1,403
7.2
7
77
22
135
6.1
1
2018
Ohio State
230
1,053
4.6
10
42
26
263
10.1
2
2019
Ohio State
301
2,003
6.7
21
68
23
247
10.7
2

Dobbins slowed in his sophomore campaign before rebounding in a ridiculous way as a junior. He’s widely regarded as the third-best running back prospect of this year’s class.

Pros

  • Durable — played in all 42 games in his time at OSU, logging 796 offensive touches (18.9/game) — and willing to play through injury
  • Elite production vs. elite competition — scored a touchdown against all six ranked opponents in 2019, finishing with 11 in those games
  • Above-average lateral movement skills and a convincing dead leg
  • Does a tremendous job — it’s really tough to overstate this — of setting up his one-on-one opponents in the open field. It’s arguably his best trait.
  • Dangerous out of the gun and in pro-style formations, suggesting he can fit in a number of offensive designs in the NFL
  • Runs with natural body lean, sense of balance, and a low center of gravity
  • Violent stiff arm that appears game after game on tape
  • Decisive runner whose ability to stick a foot and go is unquestionably NFL-capable
  • Pretty good in pass pro for his size
  • Versatile as a runner and receiver out of the backfield

Cons

  • Average or worse start-stop ability
  • Runs as well as his blocking affords and doesn’t create many plays from nothing
  • His vision isn’t necessarily a negative, but it definitely isn’t a positive — average, at best, and it may appear better than it is due to his non-stop motor. It seems to be more of an asset in the open field than in the box.
  • Lacks a second-gear ability — fast enough to avoid getting caught from behind by most defenders, but there’s no obvious explosive shift vs. the second tier of a defense

Fantasy football outlook

The compact-framed Dobbins does a little bit of everything on the field and is more of a grinder than a game-breaker, but his style of play eventually wears down defenders and promotes an increase in chunk plays. Aside from one horribly timed drop in a bowl game, Dobbins’ receiving skills shouldn’t be questioned, and he can hold up to the rigors of playing all three downs, if needed. In reality, the NFL’s current view on running backs will likely put him into a shared backfield.

He reminds of a blend of several players and is uniquely himself in many ways. One comparison I see on tape is DeAndre Washington, but there’s more north and south in Dobbins’ game. Other comparisons drawn by prognosticators include Doug Martin, Domanick Williams (Davis), Ray Rice and even Mark Ingram … While similarities from all of those guys are present in Dobbins’ game, he’s his own player and is versatile enough to look much different in various offensive concepts.

Since several teams could use a player of his caliber and style, it invites unlikely suitors. Dobbins probably has a third-round grade for most teams but could slip into the second if one scouting department is higher than most on him.

Tampa Bay, Buffalo, Kansas City and the Los Angeles Rams are in need of a running back. KC would be an ideal spot for the long-term value of Dobbins, but he may get buried in the mess of talent around him as a rookie. The Rams and Tampa present the best Year 1 situations in fantasy football. In best-case scenario, he’s an RB2, and in the safest of designations, Dobbins will be bench fodder with the occasional flash on limited handles.

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